November 2, 2017

Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force Gets to Work

The Council Chamber was packed Monday night for the first meeting of the Flood Hazard Mitigation Task Force, as appointees and interested residents came together for introductions and orientation.  The City Manager provided a detailed overview of the work that lies ahead, but purposely left open the question, for each member of the Task Force to consider individually, what it is we seek to accomplish.  With all options on the table, there are no foregone conclusions as to where the process will lead.

The Task Force’s membership is a deliberately diverse and inclusive group of residents representing a cross section of the community.  Six of the ten flooded in Hurricane Harvey and five of them in hardest-hit Southdale.  Their residency in Bellaire ranges from just 5 months to more than 38 years, some in older and some in newer homes.  They also draw upon a variety of professional backgrounds and skill sets.  A few of those were influenced by the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System (CRS) for the composition of the Task Force, but we’ve gone above and beyond that core group to match the increased scope of the task at hand.  Following Harvey and with the benefit of the City Engineer’s detailed analysis, the City Council expanded the Task Force’s charge and its membership reflects that.

While potential solutions and ultimate policy recommendations are left open for the Task Force itself to determine, in addition to its baseline CRS planning function, Council’s post-Harvey amending resolution specifies its charge and structure.  The orientation session was therefore organized around those key points in the document.  The City Manager emphasized the areas of focus—local, regulatory and regional—and he introduced the Council Liaison Team, City Staff Team and City Engineer, and discussed their respective roles and responsibilities in working with the Task Force.  Some structure is necessary to keep things on track and to provide the proper context, but the Task Force is given substantial latitude with little steering by Council and staff.  The whole point is to get the best answers with broad community input, and we’ve set it up that way, favoring substance over excessive formality.

We anticipate the Task Force will present its report to the City Council in March 2018, or at least the portion that addresses the CRS planning component.  Future meetings are scheduled with that end date in mind, but we’ll make adjustments and schedule additional meetings as needed to get the job done, especially if the Task Force identifies and takes on a more expansive scope.  Note that this initial session was held in the Council Chamber because of somewhat limited room availability due to ongoing construction, but future working meetings, the next being November 14, will be conducted in the CenterPoint Energy Community Center.

Residents are encouraged to attend Task Force meetings and provide their input.  All proceedings will be recorded and the videos made available online.  The Task Force will also be utilizing a regularly updated electronic notebook accessible to members and the public on the City website.